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Turtle Patrol in Parismina: How Fleming College Students Are Helping to Save Leatherback Turtles


Peterborough, ON (November 6, 2023) – Each spring, Fleming College students can be found walking the beaches of Parismina, a small village south of Tortuguero National Park, often in the middle of the night.

This is Turtle Patrol. And it’s part of a larger effort by Fleming Ecosystem Management Technician and Ecosystem Management Technology students and Parismina, Costa Rica residents to save the leatherback turtle, one hatchling at a time.

It is a long trek from Frost Campus in Lindsay Ontario to the village of Parismina. Fleming students have been making the journey for a decade now as part of a long-standing partnership with the Asociacion Salvemos las Tortugas de Parismina (ASTOP) project.

“Fleming College strives to provide its students with a deep sense of community and responsibility to the world around them,” said Fleming College President Maureen Adamson. “This type of educational experience is a demonstration on how broad that community can be, and how we can help a community hundreds of kilometres away.”

ASTOP was founded after Parismina residents noticed a significant decline in the population of leatherback turtles on local beaches, and the impact that was having on the ecosystem right outside their doors.

Listed as a critically endangered species, leatherback turtles can be found around the world, though populations in different oceans are considered distinct.

Fleming students work with the turtles from the Atlantic population, which have key nesting habitats in Mexico and Costa Rica. These creatures have seen a population decline of about 90% since the 1980s. The World Wildlife Fund attributes the decrease to several factors, including habitat loss and “byfishing” operations-using nets and fishing lines which migrating turtles get caught in.

Poaching turtle eggs is one of the biggest threats to the species. Despite legislation prohibiting the collection of these eggs, hundreds of thousands of leatherback turtle eggs are stolen from nests each year for consumption or sale.

Fleming College students are working to change that.

This spring a dozen Ecosystem Management Technician and Ecosystem Management Technology students arrived in Parismina to monitor the beaches each night for two weeks in late April.
Working alongside trained guides in shifts from 8 p.m. to midnight and midnight to 4 a.m., these nighttime turtle patrols serve two purposes-deterring potential poachers and watching for nesting turtles.

If students find a turtle, they help determine if she has already laid her eggs or is just starting the nesting process. Once the nesting process is complete, students move in.

Eggs are collected, taken to a protected hatchery on the beach and reburied in the sand.

No detail is overlooked. Students measure the length, depth, and width of the turtle’s original nest so they can accurately replicate it in the hatchery. Eggs are guarded until they are ready to hatch about two months later. This year, students added another layer of protection to the hatchery by building a fence along its perimeter.

“These students are learning that an effective solution which helps both community members and their environment means paying attention and listening to the needs of that community, and coming up with best practices that benefits everyone,” President Adamson said.

“Our students are passionate about protecting the environment and learning about the natural world. These types of experiences, found through Fleming College, gives our students a chance to use their knowledge and skills to improve the world around us.”

Fleming College will return to Parismina in April 2024.

The College’s Frost Campus hosts programs dedicated to environmental and natural resource studies, including Conservation Biology, Ecosystem Management Technician, Ecosystem Management Technology, Urban Forestry and Sustainable Agriculture, to name a few.

To learn more about the Frost Campus visit here.

About Fleming College
Fleming College respectfully acknowledges that we are situated on Michi Saagiig Anishinaabeg lands and territory. Located in the heart of Central Ontario, Fleming College has campus locations in Peterborough, Lindsay, Cobourg and Haliburton. Named for famous Canadian inventor and engineer Sir Sandford Fleming, the college features more than 100 full-time programs in Arts and Heritage, Business, Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences, General Arts and Sciences, Health and Wellness, Justice and Community Development, Skilled Trades and Technology, and Continuing Education. Fleming College has more than 6,800 full-time and 10,000 part-time students, and 80,000 alumni.

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